Witnesses: exploding shack was not attacked by IDF
- Los Angeles Times
July 30 2001
Six Palestinians Activists Killed in West Bank Explosion
From Associated Press
NABLUS, West Bank -- An explosion ripped through a car parts store today in
the West Bank, killing six Palestinian activists in one of the deadliest
single episodes in 10 months of Mideast violence. Hours later, Israeli
helicopters rocketed the Palestinian police headquarters in Gaza City,
injuring two policemen.
The helicopter strike sent white smoke rising from the police compound as
people ran frantically from the buildings into the street.
The Israeli military said the compound was used for manufacturing weapons
and mortar rounds. Jewish settlements in Gaza have come under frequent
mortar attack, and the Israelis have criticized Palestinian leader Yasser
Arafat for failing to prevent the attacks. The police compound is near
Arafat's seaside offices, though he was out of the region at the time.
The six activists killed in the blast that destroyed the car parts store-- a
roadside tin shack outside the West Bank city of Nablus-- were all from
Arafat's Fatah movement.
Palestinians called the predawn blast part of Israel's efforts to kill
suspected militants. "The Israeli government continues its policy of
assassination," said Palestinian Cabinet Secretary Ahmed Abdel Rahman. "This
policy will destroy any hope for peace. Resistance will continue."
But Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Dalia Rabin-Pelossof called the
explosion a "work accident," Israel's euphemism for a Palestinian-made bomb
that goes off prematurely. "This is not the first time that the Palestinians
have accused Israel of assassinations when explosions like this occurred,"
she told army radio.
Israeli security sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said three of
the Palestinians were wanted by Israel. They were believed to be involved in
two bomb attacks in recent months, the sources said.
The force of the blast blew the roof off the shack, and it was badly burned
inside, suggesting the explosion came from within the structure. Palestinian
witnesses said they did not hear helicopters or tank guns-- signals of
earlier Israeli attacks.
The store sits among rows of rusting cars that have been junked, near the
al-Fara refugee camp.
Palestinian Mansour Barahmah said he was sleeping when he heard a powerful
explosion shortly after 1 a.m.
"I went there immediately and found a fire," he said. "The bodies were still
The bodies were dismembered by the explosion, and some body parts were
tossed 30 yards from a table where the men had been sitting on old car
seats, he said. Playing cards, which were apparently in use at the time,
were smeared with blood.
The men, ages 22 to 31, regularly slept in the shack, fearing the Israelis
would attack them in their homes, Palestinian witnesses said. A seventh man
in the shack was seriously wounded, they added.
Also today, two Palestinians, ages 17 and 11, were shot by Israeli troops in
the southern Gaza Strip near by border with Egypt, Palestinian security
sources said. The Palestinians claimed the Israelis fired without
provocation, the Israeli army said troops came under fire from anti-tank
grenades and shot back.
Today's violence followed a tense day Sunday in Jerusalem, where
Palestinians rained stones on Jewish worshippers commemorating a holy day at
the Western Wall, prompting Israeli police to storm a mosque and drive back
the crowd with stun grenades.
Sunday's clash came exactly 10 months after the current round of Mideast
violence erupted inside the same hilltop compound where two large mosques
were built atop the ruins of the biblical Jewish temples.
Israel claims sovereignty over the compound, which Jews call the Temple
Mount. However, the Waqf, an Islamic trust, has day-to-day control over what
Muslims call the Noble Sanctuary.
The first clashes in the current violence broke out at the site Sept. 29--
the day after a controversial visit by Ariel Sharon, Israel's prime
minister, who was opposition leader at the time. Since then, 539
Palestinians and 133 Israelis have died in the fighting.
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